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Proposed school calendar may irk parents

Pinellas teachers may not be too happy either with the proposal for next year's academic calendar.

By DONNA WINCHESTER
Published September 22, 2006


Pinellas school officials have put together a proposed school calendar for next year that is likely to touch some nerves.

Thanksgiving vacation may be cut by two days. Second-quarter exams most likely will come after the winter break. Students could go almost three months at the end of the year with only one day off.

And teachers will have to wait an extra two weeks before picking up their first paycheck of the year.

Responding to a new legislative mandate to begin the school year later, the tentative plan calls for an Aug. 21 start date. Students would remain in school through June 3, and graduations would be held on June 4 and 5.

Coming up with a calendar each year is always a challenge, said Ron Stone, chairman of the school district’s calendar committee. But the need to begin classes two weeks later next year is making things even more difficult.

“It’s similar to the budgeting process,” Stone said. “You’re trying to get all the needs of the different constituencies met while complying with the regulations of the state of Florida.”

Those regulations — 180 days of class time divided evenly into two semesters, six paid holidays and a number of professional development days for teachers — became more daunting last spring when the Florida Legislature passed a bill prohibiting schools from starting earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. The bill, co-sponsored by two politicians from the Miami Beach area, was part of a larger proposal that will reform curriculum for middle and high schools.

The most difficult part of the new requirement is keeping second-quarter exams before winter break, Stone said. That was the main reason the district moved its start date up from late August in 2002.

“Now we’re back to where we were in the old days,” he said.

Besides the issue with exams, School Board member Carol Cook said she is worried about the effect the changes will have on dual enrolled students who must be ready to start college classes in early January and for graduating seniors who want to attend summer sessions that begin in mid May.“It’s just not as simple as saying, 'You can’t start any earlier than two weeks before Labor Day,’ ” Cook said.

Despite those drawbacks, a recent St. Petersburg Times poll showed that 68 percent of Florida residents wanted the school year to start in late August or early September. Forty-five percent said they thought the school year should start after Labor Day, and 23 percent said they preferred late August. Another 23 percent chose early August.

The poll results echoed those of a survey commissioned by Save our Summers, a south Florida group that lobbied for the legislation that mandated the later start date. In that poll, 74 percent of Florida voters supported a uniform school start date in late August.

Take a look at the tentative calendar here

[Last modified September 22, 2006, 15:08:34]


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